Welcome to A Writer’s World, my new monthly column, where I offer unique and entertaining views on our profession.
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Now, on to the first installment…
The Info-Terrorist War
Warning! This editorial is satirical – anyone taking it seriously will be shot.
My fellow communicators,
There is an informational war waging throughout the world. It is nothing less than a battle between good and evil. Between the forces of confusion and clarity. And only one side can be victorious.
The enemies of clarity have committed an act of war against us. We are a profession awakened to confusion and called to defend clarity and completeness. Our frustration has turned to anger, and anger to resolution.
Communicators have many questions. We are asking: Who is attacking our profession? The evidence we have gathered all points to a collection of loosely affiliated info-terrorist organizations known as Al-Quanfusja (“I’ll confuse you”.)
The Info-Terrorist Organizations Exposed
In addition to Al-Quanfusja, there are a number of aligned organizations, whose goal is also misinformation. These groups include: Al-Misleedja (I’ll mislead you), Al-Knatelja (I’ll not tell you) and Al-Natshewja (I’ll not show you).
Organizations like these, and their subsidiaries, constitute an axis of evil, threatening the existence and accuracy of the world’s information.
Al-Quanfusja is to info-terror what the mafia is to crime. But its goal is not making money; its goal is hiding all meaningful content — and imposing its radical beliefs on companies everywhere.
The info-terrorists practice a fringe form of extremism that has been rejected by information developers and the vast majority of companies — a movement that perverts the clear dissemination of information.
This group and its leader are linked to many other organizations in different professions. There are many info-terrorists in many companies. They ferment within their own companies where they are trained in the tactics of info-terror, plotting misinformation and confusion.
So today, I make the following demands on Al-Quanfusja:
Release all your internal and external documentation for review. Protect technical writers, information developers and usability experts in your companies. Stop immediately and permanently every person who is blocking the information development process. Hand over every document you are hiding, and give us access to every person in your development department, and to all the applications to be documented.
These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion. Al Quanfusja must act, and act immediately. They will stop the info-terrorists, or they will share in their fate.
A Message to Others
I also want to speak directly to the various company presidents, financial and information officers and development managers. We respect your professions. Their teachings are good and useful, and those who commit evil in the name of upper management blaspheme the name of business. The info-terrorists are traitors to their own profession, trying, in effect, to hijack the information development profession itself. The enemy of information development is not our many management friends. Our enemy is a radical network of info-terrorists, and every business that supports them.
Our war on terror begins with Al-Quanfusja, but it does not end there. It will not end until every info-terrorist group has been found, stopped and defeated.
These info-terrorists confuse not merely to end clarity and meaning, but to disrupt and end a way of life. With every action, they hope that we grow fearful, retreating from the world and forsaking our end users. They stand against us, because we stand in their way.
Know This – The Info-Terrorists are History
We are not deceived by their pretenses to profit and “best practices”. We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the false business ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing clarity to serve their radical visions — by abandoning every value except the desire to confuse — they follow in the path of those who hired programmers and engineers to develop documentation, resulting in chaos and confusion. And they will follow that path all the way, to where it ends: in history’s unmarked repository of discarded user guides.
Technical communicators are asking: How will we fight and win this war? We will direct every resource at our command — every means of influence, every software tool, every instrument of documentation standards enforcement, and every necessary weapon of business — to the disruption and to the defeat of the info-terror network.
This war will not be like the war against the Y2K problem a few years ago, with a decisive repair of code and a swift conclusion. Our response involves far more than rapid and mass hiring of programmers to fix broken code. Technical communicators should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic restructuring of content, producing large volumes of internal documentation and creating complex documentation procedures, which are secret even in success.
By aiding companies that work with us, we will starve info-terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue companies that provide aid or safe haven to info-terrorism. Every person and organization, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the info-terrorists. From this day forward, any company that continues to harbor or support info-terrorism will be regarded by technical communicators as a hostile entity.
We must take care to ensure that we are on the right side. If we create documentation that is not clear, consistent and complete, if we fail to recognize the importance of content management, if we do not create documentation that is usable and accessible, then we have done the work of the info-terrorists, and they will have surely won.
Our war on confusion is well begun, but it is only begun. This campaign may not be finished on our watch — yet it must be and it will be waged on our watch.
Our cause is just, and it continues. And our world has been put on notice: We are not immune from confusion. We will take defensive measures to protect our documents. Today, dozens of technical writing organizations and special interest groups have responsibilities affecting their documentation. These efforts must be coordinated at the highest level.
These measures are essential. But the only way to defeat info-terrorism as a threat to our documents is to stop it, eliminate it, and destroy it where it grows.
A Group Effort
Many will be involved in this effort, from technical writers to information developers. All deserve our thanks, and all have our prayers. And today, I have a message for all of you: Be ready. I’ve called on all information developers to be alert, and there is a reason. The hour is coming when we will act, and you will make us proud.
This is not, however, just the technical communicators’ fight. And what is at stake is not just freedom of information. This is the world’s fight. This is civilization’s fight. This is the fight of all who believe in meaning and clarity, in the completeness and accuracy of the printed word.
Join Us in this Fight
We ask every end user and office worker to join us. We will ask, and we will need, the help of management, developers, salesmen, quality assurance workers, and marketers. We are grateful that many companies and many organizations have already responded — with sympathy and with support.
These others know a basic truth – an attack on an information developer is an attack on all workers. The civilized business community is rallying to our side. They understand that if information confusion goes unchecked, that their own documents, and their own companies may be next. Info-terror, unanswered, can not only bring down the documentation department, it can threaten the stability of legitimate companies. And you know what — we’re not going to allow it.
Know Your Expectations
Ordinary workers outside of the technical communication profession are asking: ‘What is expected of us?’ I ask you to work with the technical communicators, tell them what you know, show them your work, and let them create their documents. I know many of us have fears tonight, and I ask you to be calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat.
The thousands of technical communicators who are now at work in this fight may need your cooperation, and I ask you to give it. I ask for your patience, with the delays and inconveniences that may accompany developing new documents and implementing new content management systems, and for your patience in what will be a long struggle.
Fighting for Our Values
I ask all technical communicators to uphold the values of clear communication, and remember why so many of us are in this profession. We are in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them. Non-writers should not be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of their business background or poor spelling.
I ask your continued participation and confidence in the information development process. Info-terrorists attacked our documents. They did not touch their source. Technical communicators are successful because of our hard work, creativity, and enterprise. These were the true strengths of our profession in previous years, and they are our strengths today.
Thanks to All
Tonight I thank my fellow technical communicators for what you have already done and for what you will do. And ladies and gentlemen of the STC, I thank you, your representatives, for what you have already done and for what we will do together.
Tonight, we face new and sudden challenges. We will come together to improve documentation, to dramatically expand the number of information developers, and take new measures to protect the accuracy of our work. We will come together to promote usability and keep our documents accurate and timely.
We will come together to give technical communicators the additional tools they need to track down missing or incomplete information. We will come together to strengthen our capabilities to know the plans of info-terrorists before they act, and find them before they strike at our documentation. We will come together to take active steps that strengthen our profession, to create new opportunities, and to put our people back to work.
After all that has just passed — all the missing, incomplete, inaccurate and poorly organized documentation — it is natural to wonder if our future is one of fear. Some speak of an age of confusion and the deliberate hiding or destruction of information. I know there are struggles ahead, and dangers to face. But this profession will define our times, not be defined by them. As long as technical communicators are determined and strong, this will not be an age of confusion; this will be an age of information access, here and across the world.
We Will Not Fail
Great harm has been done to our content. We have suffered great loss and mismanagement of information. And in our anger, we have found our mission and our moment. Confusion and clarity are at war. The advance of human knowledge — the great achievement of our time, and the great hope of every time — now depends on us. Our profession — this generation — will lift a dark threat of uncertainty from our people and our future. We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.
It is my hope that in the months and years ahead, our documents will evolve to higher level. We’ll go back to our work and routines, and that is good. Even anger recedes with time and grace. But our resolve must not pass. Each of us will remember what has happened, and to which projects it happened.
I will not forget this wound to our profession or those who inflicted it. I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for clarity, consistency and completeness of the world’s informational content.
The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Clarity and confusion, structured and unstructured documentation, have always been at war, and we know that nothing is neutral between them.
Clarity Will Prevail
This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way, and at an hour, of our choosing. Whether we bring our enemies to clarity, or bring clarity to our enemies, clarity will be achieved.
My fellow communicators, we’ll meet confusion with patience and hard work — assured of the rightness of our cause, and confident of the victories to come. In all that lies before us, may God grant us wisdom, and may He watch over all of our documentation.